A hedonistic portrayal of the early indie sleaze persona with the backdrop of cultural stagnancy and political disbelief directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern, Meet Me in the Bathroom is an archival documentary of the revival of the New York rock scene post-millennium and post-9/11. The likes of The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol all feature in this immersive documentary. Impact’s Natalie Howarth reviews.
Named after The Strokes’ song from their album Room on Fire released in 2003, the film’s documentation of the bands that emerged during the early 2000s felt like a celebratory and reflective accumulation of the legacy of the sounds of rock n roll of its time. From grainy live performance recordings from fans in the crowd, interviews, and footage from the band members, this was an immersive insight into a nation struck by uneasiness with the country’s politics and the daily pessimism of war broadcasted on national news. An unnerving part of the film was Interpol’s Paul Banks wandering through the ruins of 9/11, streets filled with ash and smoke and disintegrated paperwork. Many artists were affected by this and turned to their art form to convey a political message.
I felt pensive leaving the cinema, mostly inspired by the sheer dedication each musician had to their art form
A cosmos of chance, culture and creativity, New York has seen many changes to its socio-political climate years before this new era that defined modern indie rock. From the days of Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and David Bryne to the Birdland Jazz Club era, the early 2000s grunge, and indie rock scene dominated the New York music scene. With the rise of MTV, we see close footage of the moody, baby-faced Julian Casablancas of The Strokes, a self-destructive artist and art-punk idol Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The frontman and frontwoman of both highly celebrated bands featured a lot in this unique and easily consumable mode of documentation, talking about their struggles with the rise of fame. Karen O mentioned her position as a Korean American woman within the scene and how there was an air of inherent sexism with the press’s efforts to gain perverted photography during her performances: as a woman in a scene hegemonised by men, there are some differences in how others treat you.
There have been a lot of negative reviews online about this film and its apparent unmemorable sentiment, however, I felt pensive leaving the cinema, mostly inspired by the sheer dedication each musician had to their art form. LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy demonstrated his strive for succession when DFA Records were not as successful as he imagined: they toured in England before making it big with hit songs like Daft Punk Is Playing at My House and I Can Change. However, I can understand the negativity from critics due to the essence of how some of these bands’ success stemmed from nepotism and/or wealth, like the private school boys of The Strokes, and the super-gentrification of Brooklyn, where rent increased massively due to the demand of housing during the early years of the millennium, leading to the eviction of many who could not keep up with the inflated rate of rent.
It made me want to move to New York and join a band and it will make you feel the same way
Based on the book with the same title, a feature I enjoyed was the film started and ended with the poem Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun by Walt Whitman, a prolific poet often referred to as America’s poet. It acts as the only artifice to the fragments of footage, giving an almost triumphant feel as to how far the popular music scene has gone in the last decade or two:
Manhattan crowds with their turbulent musical chorus
–with varied chorus and light of the sparkling
Manhattan faces and eyes forever for me.
A poem written years before the height of New York’s metropolis status, it remains relevant to the city today with its rich and exciting history of music with references to Manhattan’s congruous bustle and sounds. This film is an exciting insight into the indie rock scene that took over and permeated New York City in the early 2000s. It made me want to move to New York and join a band and it will make you feel the same way!
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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